There is paradox throughout recovery such as “surrender takes strength”. In Step Three, my willingness to surrender was put to the test. I struggled with the thought there must be another way, while an inner knowing whispered, something must change.
Many linger between these two worlds and unfortunately this uncertainty can last for years. Like many real alcoholics before me, I hoped it was not me but the world and its people that must change. I minimized the evidence; the loss of relationships, the loss of employment, the loss of self. If I continued in my spiritual illness, destruction of everything I cared about would be gone…without help, I was doomed.
In the Twelve Step journey, we begin at Step One with an admission of our powerlessness. In Step Two, we become willing to believe “something” will carry us to recovery and in this willingness, we trust a hidden path, a path we see others walking ahead of us.
In Step Three, I learned self surrender which seemed impossible. To “Let Go and Let God” (who is this God after all?) and yet without this continued willingness, the notion I could save myself reappeared. At this juncture, I blindly entered the unknown. This life-changing decision, to take action, to change, to allow a God I did not know or understand, to take care of me, filled me with tremendous fear. It’s scary stuff to trust an unfamiliar God and yet to recover from the grip of resentment holding my heart captive was imperative.
On my knees with my sponsor, I recited the Third Step prayer. I felt carried along, it had been many years since I had prayed to God. That day, without really knowing, I made a covenant to stay on the spiritual path when I mumbled: “God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always.”
Please note, Inward Grace maintains a clear distinction between spirituality and religion. The Inward Grace disclaimer:
“The word ‘spiritual’ does not refer to religious matters. All activity which drives the human being forward towards some form of development-physical, emotional, mental, intuitional, social–if it is in advance of her/his present state, is essentially spiritual in nature and is indicative of the livingness of an inner divine entity.”
Made a decision to turn our will over to the care of God as we understood God
Now from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr:
Jesus version of Step 3 is, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him renounce himself (or herself)” (see Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:24). I’m pretty sure that Jesus and Bill Wilson meant the same thing–a radical surrendering of our will to another whom we trust more than ourselves.
The common way of renouncing the self, while not really renouncing the self at all is being sacrificial! It looks so generous ad loving and sometimes it is. But usually it is still about me. You see there is love that sincerely seeks the spiritual good of others, and there is a kind of heroic love that is seeking superiority, admiration, and control for itself, even and most especially by doing “good” and admirable things.
The absolute genius of the Twelve Steps is that it refuses to bless and reward any moral worthiness game or heroic willpower. With Gospel brilliance and insight, Alcoholics Anonymous says that the starting point and in fact, the continuing point, is not any kind of worthiness at all but in fact, unworthiness! (“Hi I’m Joe, and I’m an alcoholic.”)
When the churches forget their own Gospel message, the Holy Spirit sneaks in through the ducts and air vents. AA meetings have been very good ductwork, allowing the fresh air both in and out of many musty and mildewed churches.
We have been graced for a truly sweet surrender, if we can radically accept being radically accepted–for nothing!” “Or grace would not be grace at all” (see Romans ll:6). As my father, St. Francis, put it, when the heart is pure, “Love responds to Love alone” and has little to do with duty, obligation, requirement, or heroic anything. It is easy to surrender when you know that nothing but Love and Mercy are on the other side.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.